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[Editor's Note: This is significant evidence that the Japanese Leagues are being noticed by players in the U.S. as a competitive place to play and as a place they will be noticed.]


Report by Gary Garland

     According to Sports Nippon, Cincinnati Reds supplemental first round draft choice Mark Schramek will be in Japan Wednesday working out for the Orix Blue Wave. "There are player's such as Ichiro who were brought up in Japan who are now playing ijn the major leagues, so I asked [Orix] if they would try me out." His agent, Bobby Ballard, was apparently able to arrange this since he was an old aquaintance of an Orix official. This is the first time a U.S. number one choice has sought a job in NPB. Moreover, the Texas native will have to go to Japan at his own expense.

     An Orix official is quoted as saying that since Schramek was drafted twice by the Reds, he has some ability. He also notes, though, "if we think he has a real future, then we'll think about putting him on the roster." So they aren't exactly jumping all over an opportunity to get this guy just yet. It seems to be more of a "well, this is intriguing, let's see what happens" kind of thing. Nobody affiliated with the Kobe based ballclub has ever seen Schramek play.

     The move by Schramek drew some skepticism from Sankei Sports, who ran a headline about this that said, "are you serious?" The deadline for foreign player aquisitions has passed, so if Schramek does indeed sign an Orix contract, he would join them in the spring of 2003.

     Could this be the opening shot of a new strategy by players and their agents? That is, instead of going to the independent leagues ala J.D. Drew or the increasingl.y pathetic Matt Harrington either in hope of being selected down the line by another team or wringing more money out of an MLB organization, they will make themselves available to a Japanese club and then hope, that like Rafael Soriano, that with the experience they gain in Japan they can leverage that into a fat MLB contract?

     In any event, if he does get a job with Orix, he will be joining an ex-Red, Ed Yarnell, on the staff. You can see a pic of Schramek at:

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